By Christina Whiting
Allison Warden is an Inupiaq Eskimo artist with a wide range of talents. She is passionate about the self-determination of indigenous peoples and the protection of the planet, and shares her passions through performance art, theater and music.
Warden is also a rapper who raps under the name AKU-MATU and empowers youth through her workshops as an artist in the schools with the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Her work includes themes like the environment, ecology, Alaska history, indigenous sovereignty, contemporary culture and politics. Her one-woman shows take her all over the state and across the nation.
This month, Warden is Bunnell Street Arts Center’s artist in residence. During her residency, she plans to interact with community members through a talk, a workshop and an interactive play, all which center around a performance piece she’s creating called, “Let Glow.”
“Let Glow will focus on self-love, community acceptance and place, family-healing love and romantic love,” Warden said. “It will also focus on the importance of being part of a healthy community.”
Audience members will be given antlers to wear, as they become honorary caribou.
“Turning everyone into a caribou and having them wear antlers helps to ground them to the show, to one another and to the fate of the caribou herd that is depicted,” Warden said. “The interactivity of the show serves to create and serve stronger community bonds and feelings.”
Warden’s goal is for each audience member to leave the performance feeling more hopeful and more connected to his or her community.
The staged reading of “Let Glow” will include images and footage from the communities of Arctic Village and Kaktovik, as well as the migrating caribou that connect the two villages.
Born and raised in Fairbanks, Warden currently lives in Anchorage. However, she spends a third of the year with her mother in the village of Kaktovik. This community and its migrating caribou inspired “Let Glow,” as did her relationship with her biological grandmother and the traditional values of the Alaska Natives she grew up with.
Warden’s first foray into performance was at eight years old, when she was offered a part in a dental commercial. Soon, she was in her first play and has been actively involved with theater ever since.
Eight years ago, she met a couple of working performance artists who encouraged her to follow her passions. Three years ago, she embraced the life of a full-time artist.
Warden has traveled extensively across Alaska with her one-woman show, “Ode to the Polar Bear,” that focuses on climate change. She’s a Rasmuson Individual Artist awardee, was an On Our Radar artist for Creative Capital in performance art, received a Connie Boochever fellowship in performance art from the Alaska State Council of the Arts and recently performed at the Anchorage Museum as part of her cinematic funk-fusion band, “Yada Di.” She is currently working on an AKU-MATU rap album to be released this fall.
Warden has performed at Bunnell Street Arts Center in the past, including “Calling All Polar Bears” in 2013, Artist in Schools in 2012 and “Time Immemorial” with Anchorage performer Jack Dalton in 2009.
Warden’s Artist in Residence proposal was one of four selected from a competitive pool of 82 national applicants. She was chosen by a panel of 11 Alaskans that included artists of various media, as well as local and statewide arts administrators.
“Allison is such an energetic, innovative, intense and hilarious performance artist,” said Asia Freeman, Director of Bunnell Street Arts Center. “As a world-touring Inupiaq woman rapper, she is simply a phenomena!”
Community members are invited to bring a dish to the Curious Caribou Potluck at Bunnell on March 16 at 6 p.m. Here, Warden will talk about interdisciplinary art and her residency at Bunnell.
“Come On, Caribou” is Warden’s free, interactive theater workshop for community members 18 and older. It’s set to take place March 17-21, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bunnell. During the workshop, community members can explore space through friendly competition, dance and interactive caribou movements that will ultimately help Warden create the “Let Glow” performance piece.
“I have seen firsthand the healing and transformative power in the work I create and perform for an audience,” she said. “It is my hope that, through my work, community members attending my performances will be moved deeply enough to deepen their personal connection to the planet that we share.”
Warden’s residency at Bunnell Street Arts Center is sponsored by ArtPlace America, a national initiative of several major foundations, including Rasmuson Foundation, to spark vibrancy in American communities.
Warden is scheduled to perform the work-in-progress performance of “Let Glow” on March 28 at 8 p.m. at Bunnell. A donation of $10-$20 is suggested. For more information, call 235-2662 or visit bunnellarts.org.
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